Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
On Sunday afternoon, February 16 at 4 o'clock, the Wilma Ruth Combs Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians and the Diocese of Ohio will host this year's Absalom Jones service at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland. Bishop Williams will be the celebrant and the Rev. Ronald C. Byrd, Sr., The Episcopal Church Missioner for Black Ministries, will preach. I write to encourage you to attend this service and to remember Absalom Jones in your prayers on his feast day, February 13, and in your parishes on February 16.
The annual Absalom Jones service is an important event in our common journey toward Becoming Beloved Community. It is an opportunity both to remember the Rev. Absalom Jones, ordained by Bishop William White to the diaconate in 1795 and the priesthood in 1802, and to affirm our commitment to racial reconciliation and the disassembling of racism. Born enslaved in Delaware in 1746, Absalom Jones founded the first African American congregation in Philadelphia, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which exists to this day, and was the first African American ordained a priest in our church. His courage, dedication, and deep faith can inspire in us the same spirit necessary to heal the racial divisions and injustice of our own day.
Presiding Bishop Curry has invited contributions to be made from observances of Absalom Jones, whether in special diocesan services or in regular Sunday parish worship on February 16, to St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, NC and Voorhees College in Denmark, SC. He writes, “Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are essential institutions that help prepare people from diverse backgrounds for success in an array of vital professions. As we approach the celebration of Blessed Absalom Jones, the first African-American priest in The Episcopal Church, it is fitting that we honor his memory by lending our support to two schools that continue to form new African-American leaders.”
To this end, you may send any contributions to Sue Leishman at 2230 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH 44115, who will combine them with the designated offering from the service at the Cathedral, and forward them on to Bishop Curry’s office. You may also contribute directly to the Absalom Jones Fund online at www.episcopalchurch.org/development/HBCU
I encourage you to remember “Blessed Absalom” on February 16, in your congregations that morning and at the Cathedral that afternoon, and to make a gift to the Absalom Jones Fund for HBCUs. Bulletin inserts are available here
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio